Jun 05

Little But Important

Have you ever felt insignificant? It is something that I have battled my whole life. I have at times felt worthless, insignificant, and like I have very little to contribute whether it was a team I played on or even in leadership today. However, no one is insignificant, because God has given us our significance by creating us in His image. In today’s text, we are going to see how a small town in Israel, played a big role in identifying who Jesus was. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

This is a prophecy about the Messiah, and where He would be born. This is why it is important to understand where Jesus was born. This was an indicator for Israel as to the identity of the promised Savior. The paradox in this verse is this, the eternal God, who has neither beginning nor end, was born. Yet, this is exactly what the Bible says of Jesus. Bethlehem was a small town. A little blip on the map so to speak. Yet, God would use it for a big purpose. This shows us that God uses the least likely to accomplish His purpose. Maybe you are like me and you battle yourself, and you feel like you don’t belong or that you don’t have anything to contribute. If that is you, I hope you will read this next line; it’s not about you, it’s about God! The truth is, we don’t have any value or significance in and of ourselves. However, it is God who gives us our worth, our significance, and our identity. It’s not about what we can do for God. Rather, it is about what God does in us, and then through us. Therefore, we must learn to trust God’s plan not only for the world, but also for our lives. When God uses the seeming “nobody”, He receives the greatest glory for what is accomplished. So, let’s not get caught up in being a “nobody.” Instead, let’s praise God as the Casting Crowns song, Nobody, says, “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody, all about somebody” who changed my life and will change theirs to. That somebody is Jesus. Let’s tell the world about His power, glory, and grace that can change the world.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 04

The Right Sacrifice

As we reach the end of the book of Isaiah in our reading, God is describing not only the end of times, but also what He desires and how things will be in the new heaven and the new earth. Much of what God talks about in Isaiah 66 is laid out in greater detail in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It is worth noting, that what God says He desires is often in sharp contrast to what we as humans believe is the most important. Israel thought that they were right with God for two reasons. The first is their family line. They thought because they were Jewish that they were automatically saved. Their second line of reasoning was that they had the Law and tried to keep the Law. This second line of reasoning is still pervasive today, not just with Jewish people, but with many who are regular church-goers. The belief is that what I do is not only what can save me, but it is also the most important thing about me. However, let’s look at what God says in Isaiah 66:2, “For all these things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit. and who trembles at My word.”

The people were so caught up in what they could do for God, that they neglected who they were. They thought that what they did was more important than who they were. I wish this was an attitude that no longer exists, but sadly it isn’t. I like what Pastor Robby Gallaty said in his new book, Replicate, “What we do for God is not sustained by our time with God.” We focus on doing, rather than being who God has called us to be. As Gallaty says in the book, “we are human beings, not human doings.” What God clearly reveals in this text for us is that our humility in understanding that we can’t save ourselves is the most important aspect of who we are. Not only do we need to be humble in realizing that we can’t save ourselves, it is only by God’s grace that we can be saved; but we also need to be submissive to the Lord in our life. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I think this would be the sentence; if I don’t spend an appropriate amount of time with God, hearing from Him, and responding to Him in private, I will never be prepared to do what I am called to do in public. Therefore, instead of focusing so much on what we do for God, let’s take time each day to focus on who God is calling us to be. Let’s allow God to work in us, and then He will work through us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 03

Jesus Understands It All

Have you ever been hurt by someone you love? Have you ever experienced rejection from people? Have you ever been the victim of injustice or cruelty? You are not alone, Jesus understands your hurt and your pain. The biggest difference is that he didn’t just experience it from one person, a group of people, or for just a short time. Jesus experienced it by the world and continues to experience it. This isn’t meant to minimize your pain, suffering, and anguish. Rather, it is meant to remind you as the song says, “Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide you till the day is done. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one, no not one.” Isaiah 53 paints a grim picture of the Suffering Savior who would come into this world. Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

Isaiah is writing approximately 700 years before the time of Christ, yet God has revealed to him how God’s Son, the long-awaited and promised Messiah would be rejected by the world He was sent to save. One of the reasons that Israel rejected Jesus is because Jesus didn’t look like they thought a king should look. He didn’t behave the way they thought a king should behave. He didn’t talk the way they thought a king should talk. When Jesus was crucified, they actually thought He was getting what He deserved, and that God was punishing Him for all that He had done during His ministry. What they failed to see is what is written in verse 10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” It was the Father’s plan all along to send His Son to be the sacrificial lamb, the only one who could remove the guilt of our sin, and restore us back to a right relationship with God.

Our country is in a bad place right now. Any thought that COVID-19 could bring us back together as a country, and that we would get our priorities right as a result have been erased by what we see happening all around the nation in light of George Floyd’s murder. COVID-19 masked for a time our issue, but now the riots, political distrust, and civil unrest are unmasking the true problem of humanity. We have a depraved heart that is bent towards sin. It is seen in our pride, arrogance, racism, and even in our defiance of a simple order to wear a face mask when we are in a public building for the safety of others. We buck the mandate because “they are trying to take away our freedoms.” Yet, we should be willing to inconvenience ourselves for a time for the sake of others. That is certainly the example that Jesus gave us in His life and death. Our world needs Jesus! Church, it is our calling to take the Gospel to the world. If you need proof that sin is reigning and ruling the day, just look around; realize that God in the Gospel has given us the ability to share how He can change our world. Then, let’s repent for not taking His calling on our lives as serious as we should have, and ask for His forgiveness, but also His help to be obedient to Him from this day forward. Our world needs Jesus, what are we going to do about taking Him to them?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 02

God Appointed

We are in a dark time in our nation right now. There is political unrest, racial unrest, and we still have the concerns over COVID-19. One question that I think we should all consider is, how are we to feel towards our elected officials? The Bible actually does have something to say on this matter. Not just in the New Testament, but also in the Old Testament as we will see today. In the book of Isaiah, God is telling Isaiah and the nation of Israel what He is going to do some 200 years before it comes to pass. Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, was going to go into captivity in Babylon. This captivity was going to last for 70 years (Jer. 29:10). Then, God says he is going to use a leader named Cyrus to set them free. We see this in Isaiah 45:1 which says, “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held–to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut.”

Here is the interesting thing about Cyrus, he isn’t Jewish. Later in same chapter, God reveals that Cyrus isn’t even a believer in God. However, God was going to use Cyrus to accomplish His plan. I believe this paints a very important picture for you and I as Christians with respect to our leaders. Here are some of the lessons I think we need to learn:

  1. God uses who He desires. Because God is all-powerful, He can use anyone He desires, for whatever reason He desires to use them. In the book of Daniel, we see that it is God who appoints leaders, both religious leaders as well as secular leaders. This doesn’t mean that every leader is going to be good or even do right. It simply means that God’s plan and purpose is going to be accomplished. Leaders can either be for the good of people or bad of people. Either way, God is going to use them to accomplish His purpose, for His glory. This leads to the second lesson.
  2. We need to pray for our elected officials. This isn’t about liking them, voting for them, or even agreeing with them. God has placed them in authority over us (Rom. 13), and He has commanded us to pray for them in 1 Timothy 2. Before you think that 1 Timothy 2 deals with only leaders who are good or when there is an ideal situation; when Paul wrote this letter, the church was being persecuted. Christians were not in favor with the Roman government, yet Paul still said we are to pray for our leaders.
  3. We are to submit to our leaders. Paul writes this in Romans 13. It is worth noting once again, this has nothing to do with voting for them or agreeing with them. Paul is perfectly clear, God appointed the leader for this time, and therefore we are to submit to them. To not submit to our earthly leaders is to rebel and sin against God.

We are in a bad situation in our nation. We need to pray for our elected officials, and we need to pray for one another. What we have seen over and over again is that neither political party is the solution to what ails our nation. Only Jesus can help us, and restore us. Before we look to criticize, let’s make sure that we have spent time in prayer for them and trying to be a part of the solution. If we won’t do those things, frankly we are part of the problem, and we have enough problems. May we glorify God by how we live our life and how to interact with others.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Jun 01

The Light Shines Brightest in the Darkness

Darkness is simply the absence of light. The moment a light is turned on in a dark room, everything is illuminated and can be seen. The prophet Isaiah uses the imagery of light and darkness all throughout his book. In Chapter eight, Isaiah talks about the people’s sinfulness and rejection of God. However, in Chapter nine, Isaiah returns to the promise of God in sending the Messiah. Chapter eight is all about man’s darkness which is a reference to their sinfulness. Chapter nine is going to talk about the Light which God would send. In the opening of Isaiah 9, God singles out two specific tribes of Israel. They are the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. They are in the northern part of Israel, in the region of Galilee. Galilee is where Jesus began His ministry (Luke 4), and it is where He performed His first miracle (John 2). Therefore, our text for the day is pointing us to Jesus, who said He is the “Light of the world” (John 8:12). Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Jesus was going to bring hope out of the darkness, and offer salvation to those who deserved His judgment. In order for this to happen, we must be able to admit the truthfulness of the darkness in our lives and in the world around us. Given the current situation in America, I don’t believe it would be too hard for people to see it. The question is, will we admit our own sinfulness and admit that COVID-19 and racism, and the social unrest we are experiencing has come at least in part due to our rejection of God? How can we apply Isaiah 9:2 into our lives today?

  1. Admit your sin. The Bible is clear that we are all sinners by birth and by choice (Psa. 51:5; Rom. 3:10-12, 23). While it may be easier to point out the sin in other people’s lives, we will not answer for them. We will only answer for our own life. Therefore, we need to ask the holy light of the Spirit and His Word to shine in on our heart and life and reveal whether or not we are truly saved or not (Psa. 139:23-24; 2 Cor. 13:5)
  2. Be grieved over the sin of our nation. A few chapters back, in Isaiah 6 there is a powerful scene. Isaiah is given a vision of God in His Temple. Isaiah immediately sees his own sinfulness, but also sees the sinfulness of the nation of Israel. I believe it is time for the church to be honest about the sins of our nation. To publicly stand and speak out against them, and call the nation to repentance, and it must begin in the church (1 Pet. 4:17).
  3. Shine your light on the Light of the world. As a church, we are not called to build our own brand, or build our own ministry. We are called to lift high the name of Jesus, the make Him known near and far, and to worship Him. When people think of Westlake Baptist Church, the first thing I hope they think of is “wow, those people really love Jesus and it shows.” I don’t want them to think about any great ministry we might have or great teachers or anything like that. I, personally, and us corporately should be known as people who love Jesus. Anything else good that people know about WBC is just icing on the cake. Jesus told us to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). It is time for us to live boldly, and unapologetically for Jesus, and let the world see the difference the Light of the world can make in this dark world.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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May 29

Cry Out

Have you ever been in a desperate situation? A situation that looked so bad, that it seemed as though all hope was lost? These situations come in various ways and at various times in life. They are never fun. However, it seems as though the times that are the worst are when they come seemingly out of nowhere. This was the situation of what was happening in Judah, that southern kingdom of Judah when the prophet Joel wrote the book that bears his name. Joel was telling Judah what the appropriate response to what had happened. In the book, Joel also reminds the people that God is sovereign, and He is working His plan out to accomplish His will. So, what is the appropriate response when difficulties strike?

Joel 1:14 says, “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” We need to see our desperation for God. COVID-19 seemingly came out of nowhere, it changed our lives, and our world. Yet, all we keep talking about is how can we get back to “normal.” Have we not seen or do we not understand that “normal” is part of the problem? We have tried to remove God from almost every aspect of public life. We are going through something that we can’t see, and are struggling to figure out. Yet, very few are asking, what is God trying to show us? What is God trying to teach us in this season?

Pastors, this must begin with us. We need to lead the way in crying out to God, fasting, and seeking the Lord’s help and strength. We must lead our people to look for Jesus in every aspect of their life, and allow life to draw us closer to Him. I will close with some words of Jesus that have been running through my mind for a few days. Jesus said in John 15, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Do we believe that? Or are we just giving lip service to it? Let’s cry out to Jesus. Seek Him and know that He will reveal Himself to us.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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May 28

One Body From Two

I can still remember my wedding day as the pastor said that today the two shall become one as God intended. Marriage is a beautiful picture of what God is doing in and with the church. The church is referred to in the book of Revelation and elsewhere as the bride of Christ. While many people think that only the New Testament speaks of the Gospel going to the Gentiles, today’s text will shows us that this simply isn’t the case. From the beginning of time, God has always intended to make one family out of two groups, the Jews and the Gentiles. In our text today, Amos is writing about the certainty of God’s judgment on Israel. Amos was not only talking about judgment on Israel, but he was also looking ahead to a future judgment, when God judges the world. However, Amos also sees God’s mercy and His restoration both for Israel, and then eventually the world. Amos 9:11-12 says, “On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up it ruins, and rebuilt it as the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does this thing.” Here we can easily see that God always planned for the Gospel and His kingdom to include both Jews and Gentiles. This is really speaking about the unity that the Gospel gives.

Our unity is rooted in the Trinity. There is one God, who exists in three separate, equal parts. They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While the Trinity is made up of three persons, they are all united and equal to one another. They have different functions, but the same purpose. This is a picture of marriage. The husband and wife are equal in that they are made in God’s image; however, God has given each of us separate, distinct roles. However, the purpose is the same, to glorify God and to spread His kingdom. This is also a picture of the church. Paul makes it clear in Romans 12 that while there are many members, there is only one body. We all are equal in God’s eyes, but God gives different spiritual gifts to each believer, for a specific purpose. When we use our spiritual gift for the glory of God and the good of the church, the church is built up and strengthened. The end result is that the church is a witness to its community of the power of the Gospel to change hearts and lives. It also results in the Gospel spreading further, which is a fulfillment of the Great Commission. If you are a child of God, this is your calling. We are to be a disciple who makes disciple-makers. We are to protect the unity and the testimony of the church. It is important that we take our calling seriously, because God has said over and over that a day of judgment is coming. If the church spends all of its time fighting with each other, then people will not hear the Gospel. When people don’t hear the Gospel, then they die having never heard the only message that could save them, and the result is they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. So my appeal to my brothers and sisters is this, let’s walk in unity for the sake of the church and for the sake of the lost, that we might be united in love and mission to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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May 27

Be Kingdom-minded: An appeal to my brothers and sisters in Christ

Yesterday here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Governor made it mandatory for face masks to be worn when inside a building, unless you have certain medical issues or are a certain age. This has also happened in some other states, and it appears other states are going to follow suit in the coming days. Immediately after the decision was handed down, the reaction on both side was swift on social media. I am not surprised by this, nor do I think you really are. This has become the norm in our society. When someone says something, everyone feels they must respond immediately. Here is my concern, the church is losing any influence it may have in our society. The church has gotten sucked into the political divide in this country. Please don’t misunderstand me, Christians need to be involved in the political process; however, when we engage in politics, it must be to speak truth into the situation, not share our opinion or to roast anyone who disagrees with us. We certainly cannot be all about demanding our rights regardless of the cost. The Bible constantly calls us put the needs of others ahead of our own. We see this in the example of Jesus, especially as Paul writes it in Philippians 2:2-8. I believe God is giving us a unique opportunity to show what living the Gospel out looks like to a world that is battling a virus and fear. When we get on social media and start name calling, and we verbally torch anyone who disagrees with us, we are showing the opposite of the Gospel. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have your opinions on things. I certainly have some very strong opinions on mask wearing, the closing of church buildings, and more. However, I have to remind myself that there is more at stake than my personal preferences or comfort. There are eternities at stake. Because we believe what the Bible teaches, then we believe that there is only one way a person can be saved. A person can only be saved by surrendering to God’s grace through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. This has nothing to do with political affiliation, personal preferences, or any temporary decisions made by political leaders. We need to be kingdom-minded now more so than ever. With this being said, I would like to suggest a few steps we can take to be focused on what Jesus says matters.

  1. Pray for one another. We need to be men and women of prayer. We need to pray for one another. We live in a fallen, sinful world. We all have a sin nature inside of us, battling against the Spirit of God for control of our mind and our mouth. In a day and age where there is very little accountability on social media, people feel free to get on there and air out every thought they have, regardless of who they might hurt.
  2. Pray for our government. Maybe I am more sympathetic to those in leadership, because I am part of a team that has to make difficult decisions at times. Decisions that I know are going to be unpopular with some. But for those who think it is easy to make a decision that will affect millions of people, I would say, how about you try it for a week and then let’s talk. I’m not trying to be condescending with that statement, I just believe that when you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, it gives you a different perspective. Whether you like those in office, whether you voted for them or not, and whether you agree with their decisions or not is completely inconsequential. If you are a child of God, Romans 13:1-7 tells us that we must submit to those God has placed in authority over us, unless they ask us to violate Scripture. What if instead of posting our opinion about whatever government official, we instead posted Scripture or even prayers for them on social media? What if we spent some of the time we normally are on social media, and instead spent that time in prayer for them?
  3. Pray for the lost. Our highest calling as a Christian is to be a disciple-maker who makes other disciple-makers. How much more time would we have to read our Bible, pray, and disciple others if we stopped posting so much on social media? I’m not against social media, I think it has some great uses, especially when it comes to Gospel endeavors. When was the last time you tried to share the Gospel with someone on social media? While we sit back and argue about politics, millions of people are dying and going to hell. How can we think God is ok with that church?

I love the church, and I write this with a heart that is breaking. The kingdom of God is bigger than our country, and more important than my personal preferences. I need to be consumed by the kingdom of God until every other concern fades away. Will we lay down our verbal arms and put on the armor of God, pick up the sword of the Spirit (Bible), and proclaim in person and online the truths of the kingdom of God? Or will we focus on winning a culture war while watching millions die without Jesus?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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May 27

A Little While For A Big Purpose

I wonder how many of our readers like to make sacrifices, even little ones. My guess is, it depends on what you are having to sacrifice, for how long you have to, and what is the payoff in the end. Certainly the past couple of months have been about sacrificing some of our comforts for the good of others. It’s why we practice social distancing, wear masks, didn’t go into public places for a while. I’ve chosen to look at this as a time for the church to really practice what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Does this mean there is going to be a big payoff in the end, and thousands of people are going to flock to our churches for Sunday worship as we begin to re-open? Not necessarily, but this I would argue is one of the biggest things we need to realize. If we are doing something for the sake of getting something, we may not have the best motives for what we are doing. Contrast our sometimes impure motives with God’s holy character, and His ability to shape events today for a greater purpose in the future. This is what we see in today’s text, which comes out of the the Old Testament book, Hosea.

Hosea is a really strange book. Those who have read it, know what I’m talking about. God actually tells one of His prophets to go marry a prostitute, love her, have children with her, and when she leaves him go back and marry her again. Given how much the Bible talks about adultery, sexual purity, and the like; this probably seems a little strange. However, God was using Hosea as a physical illustration to show how His love for His people, Israel, and how they had been treating Him. They had been committing spiritual adultery, which is idolatry. God warned them, and warned them through sending various prophets, yet they wouldn’t listen. God told them that judgment was coming because of it, yet they wouldn’t listen. Yet, through all of their idolatrous ways, God still loved His people, because God is love. The judgment God was going to send, was an act of grace, mercy, and love. They were going to have to suffer because of their sinful choices, but in the end it was going to produce something amazing. It was going to result in a nation who loved God and obeyed Him. Hosea 2:23 says, “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy, then I will say to those who were not My people, you are My people! And they shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

Israel was going to have to suffer for her sinful choices. It was a reminder of the holiness and the righteous standard of God. Yet, God was also promising that after a time, the judgment would end and they would be restored back to a right relationship with Him. In this story, we see two sides of the same coin. The coin is God’s love. On one side, there is righteousness and justice, where God because He is holy and pure cannot and will not tolerate sin in the life of His children. Because of His holiness, He disciplines us when we sin. On the other side, there is mercy and grace. Because of His love, knowing that we could never be sinless, He sent the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins, and to satisfy His wrath against sin. He could have asked us to pay the price, yet He willingly paid it Himself. The story of Hosea, especially in the first three chapters is truly amazing to watch unfold, because it feels like it could be written about where we are right now. Yes, we are suffering through COVID-19. There has been a high price paid from sickness, loss of jobs, difficulties in paying bills, up to people losing their life. Yet, God in His sovereignty and all-powerfulness, can bring something glorious out of this. A church that is pure, undefiled, and seeking Him as we should have been all along. A nation and world that learns there is no safety and security in the things of this world, and there must be a greater purpose to my life than just working to pay bills and one day die. I’m not going to pretend that this time as been or moving forward will be easy. Rather, my purpose of this writing is to say that God can accomplish something far greater than we ever imagine, if we will turn from our sin and turn in faith to Him. We are suffering right now, but I believe that God has a bigger purpose that He is going to work out in His time, and in His way. But what should we be doing now?

  1. See our sin as God sees it. For far too long, we have minimized sin. Instead of calling it adultery, we call it “having an affair.” Instead of lying, we downplay it as a “little white lie”, no real big deal. Instead of calling it murder, we call it a “choice.” We can no longer pretend as though our choices don’t have consequences. Because God is sovereign, which means to be in control, He could stop us from doing anything and everything if He wanted to. However, in His love, He gives us a choice. We need to understand that every choice we make has consequences. Those consequences could be good or bad, but they are the result of the choices we make. If you keep swimming with sharks, one day you are going to get bit.
  2. Ask God to remove our idols. The thing that is so deceptive about idolatry is how subtle it can start. We all know that we shouldn’t have statues of fat men in our homes. But that’s not all an idol is. An idol is anything or any one who we love or cling to more than God. If you want to know if you have an idol in your life, you can ask yourself some questions. Questions such as, if there anyone that I would not want to let go of out of my life, even if God said they were not good for me? Is there someone who would ask you not to pray, read your Bible, give, serve, or attend church, and you would actually not do those things? When you get stressed out, what do you turn to first? Is there a place or an event that could keep you from going to church, even if it’s just once and a while? I could probably write out about another 20-30 questions, but I think we see the point. We can’t love God on Sunday, but then live like the devil Monday-Saturday. We need to ask God to show us our idols, and then remove them for our own good.
  3. See God’s discipline as a good thing. How many of you remember what your parents used to say to you before they spanked you? Remember, “this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you?” Anybody else think that was a lie? I certainly did, until I had my own children. As much as I loved them, and wanted the very best for them, they still made and make decisions to disobey me. When they do, I have to deliver discipline. And that is one of the hardest things to do, because I love them. Yet, we know it is what is best for them in the long run. Where did we learn that? That’s how God loves us. Proverbs 3:11 says, “My son, do not despise the disciplining of the Lord, for whom the Lord love, He corrects.” As the writer of Hebrews says, no one thinks discipline is good at the time, but in the end it produces the right results.

I wish I could tell you that I understand everything that God is doing in our world right now, but I can’t. However, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt, that what He is doing is for His glory and our good. Therefore, let’s trust Him during this time and after it, learn what He is trying to teach us, and know that in the end, something far better for us will come.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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May 26

Second Chances

I think a fitting title for Jonah 3 would be, second chances. Jonah gets a second chance to obey God, and Nineveh is going to get a second chance to turn from their sin and turn to God. By God’s grace, both get it right this time. There is a backstory that helps us understand why the people of Nineveh turned from their sin, and believed Jonah’s story so easily. The people of Nineveh believed in a fish god. Therefore, I’m sure Jonah didn’t smell real good after his adventure in the belly of a great fish, and I’m sure he mentioned where he had come from. Therefore, the people hearing that this prophet was spit out of the mouth of a fish would have had a major affect on the people. Regardless of why they turned from their sin, the point is God gave them a second chance, and they turned from their sin and were spared.

What about you and I? Have we been given a second chance in life? One thing I have learned in my own life is that decisions made after a crisis rarely last long-term. It is common when we have a major health scare to start making all sorts of rash decisions. For a while, we are able to stick with them, but after some time, life typically goes back to the way it was before the crisis. This would certainly be the case for the people of Nineveh, as there is another Old Testament prophet sent to Nineveh 150 years after Jonah went. The result is recorded in the book of Nahum. I will give you a hint as to how it turns out, heard of anyone going to visit Nineveh on vacation? Probably not! It is in this area that I see the biggest lesson that we as Americans need to learn through this crisis of COVID-19. God has given us yet again, another chance, and we need to not blow it! Life has dramatically been altered over the last two months, but the tendency is for us to return to life as “normal” as soon as possible. If that happens, I truly fear what may happen to our nation, because for years we have been running further and further from God. You can see in the Bible and throughout world history, that God may allow a people to run from Him and deny Him for a while, but sooner or later His grace ends and judgment comes. How can we take full advantage of this second chance God is giving us?

  1. Confess your sins. God brings discipline and conviction to get us to understand that we have done something wrong. This is just like our parents, when they would spank us or send us to our room or the favorite of some, give a time out. It was meant to alert us to the fact that we had crossed a forbidden boundary. But confession wasn’t the ultimate goal of discipline with our parents, and it isn’t God’s ultimate goal.
  2. Repent of your sins. The ultimate goal of discipline is repentance, that is to turn away from something and to turn to God. Knowing that you have done something wrong is only half of the equation. There must be a chance of mind which leads to a change in action. America needs to confess her faults to the Lord and turn from our evil. God is bringing us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need to learn our lessons from it. We cannot return to life as usual, or we will have missed what God was graciously trying to teach us.
  3. Praise God for the second chance, but don’t take it for granted. Two of the most important and powerful words in the English language are “thank you.” Those two words go a long way when dealing with people. Sometimes, we lull ourselves into believing that we are basically a good person, and so we deserve a second chance. The Bible has something very different to say. We are sinners by birth and by choice, and unless the Lord saves us and begins to change us, we will go right back to doing what we were doing. You can put a dress and lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. We need to allow the conviction of our sin to work its way to our heart, and then cry out to God for His grace and mercy. We need to thank God that He gives us second (and more) chances. But we can’t take them for granted, because God is not obligated to give us another chance. Let’s make the most of what God has given us, let’s learn our lessons, thank God, and then see if God will again bless us, our families, and our nation.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment